FIDM alum Monique Lhuillier’s name has become synonymous with couture bridal wear. The renowned designer has Hollywood starlets looking to her eponymous collections of gowns when gliding up the red carpet and walking down the wedding aisle. Lhuillier opens her first New York flagship this month.
Can you tell us a bit about your new store opening in New York?
On the ground floor, we will have all of our evening and ready-to-wear while upstairs will be more private for bridal. I also highlighted edited pieces that will be in the store and when I launch shoes they will available in the store as well. However, only my signature collection will be available, not my Bliss line.
Where is it located?
It is on 71st off of Madison. It’s a 3500 sq. ft. townhouse and it has a very private couture-like feeling to it, which is so wonderful. It took us a long time to find the right space and I think we finally found it.
Are there other bridal wear designers, such as Vera Wang, on the Upper East Side that are your contemporaries?
I think that today’s bride is very savvy and she likes to see what all of her options are, so she tries everything first and then makes her decision. I think it’s actually great that we’re all close by—it’s more convenient for the shopper. It works out in L.A. We are on Madison Ave. and all of my contemporaries are within a 2-mile radius, so the consumer can go from store to store.
Does your ready-to-wear collection usually involve styles inspired by the bridal collection?
The gowns are always very present in my collection; it’s something that’s very much a part of my brand. I started in bridal—it’s all about femininity. I first focused on the fluidity of gowns and from there I crossed over to evening gowns and then to a full collection, so the presence of the gown is always very strong. It’s a part of who I am.
How did you get started in bridal?
18 years ago, when I was engaged to my husband, I was shopping for a wedding dress and I noticed the lack of fashionable options for brides, so that was my start. A year after I was married my now 16-year-old bridal collection began.
How would you describe your customer? Who’s the girl that is really dying for one of your wedding dresses?
I think the girl is very fashion savvy. She wants to feel beautiful, but still sexy on her wedding day. I think my ready-to-wear girl is a little older than my bridal customer. She’s not about trends as much; she’s more about good clothes that are made well and editing her wardrobe. I think I have two different customers. Usually, a girl that buys from my bridal collection is buying a very expensive garment for the first time, whereas my ready-to-wear girl is already used to the price point.
What other brand extensions do you see in the coming years?
We would like to have a signature fragrance for our perfume line and I will be launching jewelry and footwear at some point. I would also love to do a lingerie line and open more flagship stores in Asia and London.
Is bridal wear the core of the business?
Well, my business is 50/50 so what I like about approaching bridal, or when I’m trying to design bridal, is coming off the season with the color. When I do bridal I’m excited to do whites and ivories and when I do ready-to-wear I’m so excited to work with different fabrics—there’s just so much more I can do. I like having both in my schedule because I think doing both collections makes me stronger since they are such a departure from each other.
Are most of the gowns couture? Are those usually made to order and how involved are you in the process?
I offer a small couture service, which I limit to 12 a year. It involves meeting one on one with the bride and sketching from scratch and really creating a one of a kind for them, including a monthly fitting. Then there is my signature collection that ranges from $2,000-$15,000, which is available in my stores and other high-end department and specialty stores. Then I have the Bliss collection and that’s available in other department stores, so I have several brands under several umbrellas.
How high do prices go for the couture gowns?
They start at $25,000 and can go up to $100,000.
Looking back at your career, was there a turning point when your name really started to gain such strong recognition?
I think it happened around the time I did Britney Spears’ wedding dress. When I started doing trunk shows, people were saying my name correctly and I just felt the momentum and we knew that something good was happening.
If you were designing a wedding dress for yourself today, what would it look like?
It would be in lace and very fitted on the body. It would also be lightly beaded but very light and flared on the bottom. I always try to go for effortless beauty in all of my dresses.